What can we learn from Canada about indigenous climate funds?
What do an indigenous person from British Columbia and one from the Amazon have in common? Though they might seem far apart, they share an interest to find sustainable activities to ensure the wellbeing of their communities and the conservation of their territories. They are also alike in their need to access funding to advance their initiatives.
In order to create a space for different organizations to share their experiences gaining access to climate funds, WWF and NICFI/Norad hosted a knowledge-sharing exchange in Bogota for participants from Canada, Colombia, and Peru. Speaking from Canada, contributors shared the experience of the Coast Funds, an endowment established in 2007 to conserve the region of British Columbia and support projects that bind long-term sustainability for indigenous communities with the conservation of their territory.
What they have achieved is amazing: Coast Funds has become one of the most effective donors in Canada during recent years, with a success rate of 90%, an average of 98 out of 100 projects accepted, and high levels of efficacy in its methods, which result in funding imbursements during the first weeks of their interventions. What can the indigenous peoples of the Amazon learn from this experience? These are five key recommendations from the Coast Funds team:
© Primera Nación Kitasoo/Xais
1. Long-term sustainability is key
The best way to take advantage of funds and give processes continuity is to make sure that projects are sustainable in the long term. This is one of the premises behind the work of Coast Funds and has helped improve communities’ quality of life. The mechanism has been so effective that in 2017 alone Coast Funds supported 37 productive projects that contribute to the territory’s conservation: at the moment, 2.6 million hectares (85% of Great Bear Forest’s total area) are being protected as a result of the endowment’s creation. According to Brodie Guy, Director of Coast Funds, they key is having a financial conservation mechanism in which communities have a role as both businesspeople and guardians of their territory.
2. It is possible to simultaneously conserve and promote productive processes
The Coast Funds experience has demonstrated that conservation processes are more effective if they are accompanied by productive alternatives for communities. According to Merv Child, Director of the Nanwakolas Council, which brings together six First Nations of the British Columbia region, both approaches are equally relevant and necessary to ensure results. Ideally, one should recognize indigenous peoples as guardians, but also as entrepreneurs of their territories.
© Primera Nación Kitasoo/Xais
3. There is power in unity
It is not possible to think about climate funds without building partnerships and working together with strategic allies – with other communities as well as external organizations. British Columbia’s stellar results have been, to a great extent, the product of teamwork among 24 First Nations, Coast Funds, other organizations, and the national government. Though several years of dialogue were previously necessary, today each actor contributes the best of its experience towards the crafting of a shared vision.
4. Tourism is a good option
Some of the experiences with the best results regarding the use of climate funds in British Columbia are related to tourism. In some cases, as with the Kitasoo/Xais First Nation, touristic activities, directed entirely by the community, have generated an important source of income and allowed for the protection of 50% of the territory’s area. Travelers are drawn by the possibility of seeing bears, wolves, and whales, but also reach the territory to learn first-hand about indigenous traditions.
5. Permanent participation is crucial
What makes the difference? When communities feel represented by their leaders and their voices are heard at all levels of decision-making. In the case of Coast Funds, First Nations elect their representatives and communicate directly with governments.
© Viviana Londoño / WWF-Colombia